The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force in December 2005 and enables same sex couples to obtain legal recognition of their relationship and parity of treatment with opposite sex couples who enter into marriage. In order to form a civil partnership in the
UK the couple must:

• Both be of the same sex
• Not be in another civil partnership or marriage
• Be aged 16 years or over
• Not related in a prohibited degree

Civil partnership is formed upon signature of the civil partnership agreement. The UK will recognise a validly registered civil partnership entered into in another country provided it complies with the general principles and requirements of the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

How does civil partnership differ from marriage?
Civil Partnership is an entirely new legal relationship distinct from marriage. The Government has made various legislative changes to give equal treatment to the rights and responsibilities that flow from the relationship to those that married couples are entitled to. Whereas a religious marriage ceremony is an option for opposite sex
couples, a religious civil partnership procedure is not available. Any religious blessing of a civil partnership requires to take place separately from the civil ceremony.

What happens if I separate from my civil partner. Can we divorce?
The process of dissolution of a civil partnership, like divorce, is Court based. Evidence is necessary that the partnership has broken down irretrievably on the following grounds:

• Unreasonable behaviour
• One year non cohabitation
• Two years’ non cohabitation
• That one of the parties has – following the registration of the civil partnership – been issued with an interim gender recognition certificate under the Gender Recognition Act 2004.

Financial claims require to be resolved before dissolution and the same financial rights exist in “partnership property” as those enjoyed by married couples. This means that civil partners can claim aliment, periodical allowance, a capital sum, pension sharing and orders for transfer of property orders upon separation or dissolution of
the partnership.

Since civil partnerships came into being in 2005, we have advised many couples on the legal issues they should consider before entering a civil partnership.

Like any cohabiting relationship or marriage, civil partnership creates rights and obligations. So if you are planning a civil partnership, or are already in one, it is a good idea to plan ahead and prevent future legal disputes. We’d be happy to help you do this.

Download our briefing here. Civil Partnership [PDF - 186kB]